BJ's Wholesale sent me a free trial membership offer in the mail. I noticed that their gas prices were the lowest in the area and their store is only a few miles from home, so I took them up on the offer today. I figured, if nothing else, I could save a few cents on gas. After getting my membership card, I took a look around inside the warehouse club. A brief walk-around was enough to tell me that it would be difficult to save enough to justify a $45 annual membership. Although their bulk discounts are significant, those are name brand products. I figured out unit pricing for a number of items that I use often and in every case, I could do better with store brand items from Pathmark or off-brand items from Save-A-Lot. It's even worse for BJ's when you consider that Pathmark often has specials and clearance deals on store brand items. So if you absolutely must have name brand products, then the warehouse club is the way to go. If you don't care about brands, you may do better elsewhere.
What's cheaper at BJ's? Gas, as I mentioned earlier. Skim milk at BJ's was quite a bit cheaper than at Save-A-Lot and Pathmark. And lettuce too, but not oranges. Also eggs, but I don't typically use very many eggs. So I could recoup a $45 membership fee by buying 2,250 gallons of gas, 66 gallons of milk, 225 heads of lettuce, or any combination of those. I'd probably get sick of lettuce. :) This was just a quick shopping trip so I haven't seen every last item they have yet. A return trip may turn up more bargains. Still, the annual fee would pose quite a headwind. The biggest problem at this BJ's: the long wait for checkout. They didn't have very many cash registers open and with the typical BJ's customer buying a truckload of groceries, it takes quite a while to get them all through the line.